Tinsel, Lights, Presents, and … Divorce?

With the holiday comes parties, gift-giving, and lots of other holly-jolly. Oh, and a rise in divorces.


For many Michigan families, Christmas travel means sunshine and day trips to Disney. For others, visiting family and winter sports like skiing are at the top of the holiday vacation list. A welcome break from routine, full of relaxation and enjoyment. Or is it? Research suggests this may not be an accurate reflection of the facts.


Sociologists from the University of Washington presented new research at a recent American Sociological Association annual meeting. There, Associate sociology Professor Julie Brines, and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini revealed that divorce, just like family vacations, is seasonal. In fact, there may even be a direct correlation between family vacations and divorce.


The research didn’t begin as a look at marriage survival through the holidays…


The research actually started out as something else. The team was looking into the recession and how it had impacted marriages. After all, rising unemployment and sinking property values can have a huge impact on marriages. (Those of us in Michigan know that all too well.)  


However, during research the team noted that there were distinct periods when divorces peaked. Specifically, March, and August, which follow family vacation times. Even when the researchers removed all other factors that may influence the outcome, the results were the same. So what does that mean?


Vacations may not be the trigger, but seasonal rituals may play a role…


According to Professor Brines, although they are not 100% certain, the trend appears to be linked to family vacations, and may be driven by the calendar of “domestic rituals” that governs family behavior. In other words, a couple who are already experiencing difficulties in their marriage may go on vacation with high expectations, only to suffer disappointment.


Many couples view holidays as a time to have fun and “get away from it all.” These feelings can often translate into the belief that if they can only step back from their problems for a while and have some fun together, they can return to life knowing that everything will be better and their troubles will be easier to overcome. This however, is rarely the case.


People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past.” Prof. Brines explains.”They represent periods in the year when there’s the anticipation or the opportunity for a new beginning, a new start, something different, a transition into a new period of life. It’s like an optimism cycle, in a sense. They’re very symbolically charged moments in time for the culture.”


So what does this mean for families during the Christmas season….


Although this may seem obvious when it comes to August divorce filings, as they would fall at the end of the summer break, this doesn’t quite compute for March. After all, it falls several months after the Christmas break. So are vacations really the direct cause of more divorces? Professor Brines says yes.


Apparently while the factors that influence whether or not a couple will consider divorce would be the same regardless of the time of year, the start of the school year may serve to speed the process. Professor Brines believes that people may take longer to act on the impulse at the very beginning of the year, as it directly follows periods in the year, like Christmas and New Years which are considered to be ‘culturally sacred’. This means that people attach some kind of taboo to filing for divorce during this time.


If this research is correct, then there are a number of couples out there considering divorce as we write this. If you happen to be one of them, and you’re unsure about where to go from here or what comes next, call us today at 866 766 5245. The experienced family law attorneys at the Kronzek Firm have been helping Michigan couples navigate their divorces for decades. We can help you too.